Israel Expels 9 French Activists after Airport 'Trouble'
Nine French activists who arrived in Israel overnight and "caused trouble" at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, have been expelled, an interior ministry official said on Wednesday.
"These nine pro-Palestinian activists caused trouble and some violence on board the plane they were travelling on from Athens and at the terminal," spokeswoman Sabine Haddad told Agence France Presse.
"They were immediately expelled and left on the same plane," she said, indicating the passengers were believed to have tried to enter Israel as part of the "Welcome to Palestine" fly-in campaign which started on Sunday.
Throughout the course of the day, Israel prevented 79 activists from entering the country, half of whom have been returned home.
Another 40 who were refusing to leave voluntarily were still awaiting deportation, Haddad said, indicating they would be expelled at the earliest possible opportunity and barred from returning to Israel for five years.
Among that number are eight Britons who have been refusing food since their arrest on Sunday, said Palestinian prisoner rights group Addameer.
"There are eight British nationals who have been on hunger strike since they were arrested," said Mourad Jadallah, a legal researcher at Addameer.
"They are refusing food while in Israel as an act of solidarity with the (Palestinian) prisoners."
He said they had been stripped to their underwear and searched, and most of them had not been allowed to make calls to their family, although they were understood to be receiving consular assistance.
British embassy officials were not immediately available to comment.
Hundreds of Israeli police were deployed at Ben Gurion airport from Saturday night to prevent the arrival of a wave of foreigners taking part in the "Welcome to Palestine" campaign.
Organizers of the campaign had been expecting to welcome up to 1,500 people, but Israel warned airlines they would be forced to foot the bill for the activists' immediate return home, prompting many of Europe's main carriers to cancel hundreds of tickets.